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When your boss is a crook.

WHAT DO YOU DO IF THE MAN or woman you report to, the person who rates your performance and possibly directs your daily activities, is involved in illegal activities affecting your corporation? It could never happen, you say. Not my boss, you say ! Unfortunately, it can happen, it has happened, and it will happen again. Ask yourself the question that student military officers have been asked in training for centuries-what are your actions now?

It could happen like this: The problem first comes to your attention as you chat with a procurement section clerk during lunch in the employee cafeteria. He knows you are the director of security, but he also knows your well-deserved reputation for keeping sources of information confidential, as well as your reputation for fairness.

"There is something very irregular in the process of purchasing supplies for the hospital," he confides to you. "Someone is going outside of prescribed channels to make large purchases. I can't tell you any more than that, " he says as he gets up to leave.

"Thanks for the information. I'll check into the matter," you tell him, your own lunch gone tasteless with yet another problem to check out.

Your internal investigation convinces you that the vice president for insurance and physical plant has been taking illegal kickbacks from several suppliers. Further investigation dredges up documentary proof of fraud on the part of the VP.

The case is solid. You have no doubt that you can obtain an indictment and a conviction in any court of law.

There is only one problem: The VP for insurance and physical plant is your boss! He is a trusted official of the hospital, a family man, a church member, and a volunteer leader for the Boy Scouts. He also writes your evaluation and has recently given you a substantial salary increase.

Is this a security manager's nightmare or secret wish? What do you do? What do you say? How do you handle this problem?

To many security professionals, this situation may be one to relish. It's a chance to blow the whistle loudly and clearly on the one who has been giving you fits over your budget, your assignment of subordinates, and your policies. Payback time is here ! To other security professionals, this situation is a nightmare-a true-life, full-blown moral dilemma. A trusted associate, a valuable and cherished mentor, a friend is implicated in criminal activity.

I cannot provide you with a moral blueprint for proceeding in a case such as this. You must rely on your conscience and moral values to provide a compass to guide your actions. Church teachings, moral codes, and professional codes such as the ASIS Code of Ethics can help guide your way. You, however, must do what you think is best and then live with the consequences.

Let's follow one case to its conclusion. An American working in a Middle Eastern country as director of fire, safety, and security for the start-up of a large military hospital is confronted by the manager of the company-owned and -maintained city where all the hospital employees live. This city is under the security director's span of concern.

"From now on, you will report to me, and I will approve and oversee all the security functions of this project," the city manager tells our hero.

Sorry," you reply. "My contract states that I report to the project director. " Our hero attempts to educate the city manager as to security's mission. "I require the freedom to investigate and inspect everything that happens within the hospital and the city to best protect the project. "

"Perhaps you didn't understand me, " the city manager persists. "I have always supervised security in any project in which I have been involved. Many of the security directors I have supervised were much more experienced than you, they were older and wiser than you, and they all took my supervision without involving their egos. "

"I can understand that that is how you have operated in the past," you reply. "Nevertheless, I took this assignment with the written contract that I report only to the project director."

"The project director agrees that I should be your supervisor. If you insist that your contract cannot allow you to work for me, I can release you from your contract and send you home, " says the city manager.

Bowing to the inevitable, you say, "Threatening to send me home in time to spend Christmas with my family is not a credible threat. But if the project manager tells me I report to you, so be it. However, I will continue to provide the high level of security this project requires. "

Weeks later, you receive information that the city manager has also taken upon himself the mission of purchasing vehicles for the hospital. This job requires him to travel to the nearest port, negotiate the purchase of the vehicles, and transport them to the hospital.

It doesn't take long to find out that the city manager is the single source for vehicle selection, approval, purchase, and payment. No other employee reviews the purchase requests or payment approvals.

You begin to investigate in a lowkey manner, as you would do when investigating any employee who had the capability of perpetrating fraud. You rigorously safeguard individual rights and reputations from damage resulting from casual references to suspected wrongdoing. You involve your security supervisors as little as possible, keeping the fruits of the investigation on your own computer disk, which you keep in a safe place.

Within three days the audit trail is complete. You can prove to any prosecutor or grand jury that the city manager has overcharged the hospital for vehicles. You have definite proof that he has been taking kickbacks and illegally diverting project funds. You have a rock-solid case. What do you do now?

You have several options. You can ignore the incident and avoid any accusations that you are attempting to get back at the individual who put you under his control.

You can confront your boss with your evidence and warn him that unless he stops his actions you will report him to the authorities and the project director. You might do this if you thought you could straighten out his behavior, keeping him, the security department, and the project from unwelcome host-country attention.

Another option is to present the evidence to your host nation's law enforcement branch for it to handle. Doing so would subject your boss to the strict, draconian laws of the Islamic nation in which you are working.

Or you can present the evidence to your boss's boss and seek corporate discipline for his transgressions. This option would avoid the unwelcome host-nation law enforcement interest.

In this incident, the security director was able to meet with the project manager. He presented a solid case with the inescapable conclusion that the city manager was engaging in kickbacks and fraudulently diverting the hospital's funds.

Since this project was located in a foreign country with severe laws concerning theft, the city manager was not handed over to law enforcement authorities, but his contract was terminated by the project manager. The former city manager was on an airplane bound for New York less than two hours after the city manager heard the evidence.

The former employee was thankful that he was going home in disgrace rather than being charged with fraud and theft under the host country's laws. Under Islamic law, one of the penalties for theft is the loss of the right hand.

This case had an acceptable outcome. However, think of the fortunate combination of events that contributed to this success. How many of the supportive features of our hero's situation do you have in your job should you find it necessary to accuse your boss of wrongdoing?

I wanted to close this article with a list of warning signs for a boss gone sour. However, I found that the negative traits that might signal a problem differ merely in degree from the traits that any good boss must possess.

The truth is that there is no recipe for dealing with a crooked boss. Your actions in dealing with such a situation will be based on your code of ethics, moral persuasion, and professionalism. Just as you often ask yourself, "What would we do if we had a fire in the emergency room, " you must ask yourself, What would I do if my boss were breaking the law?" Kenneth M. Roberts, CPP, is an independent consultant on fire, safety, and security in hospitals. He is currently on active duty with the US Army as the mobilization plans officer for Fort Stewart, GA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Issue; Ethics
Author:Roberts, Kenneth M.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:1447
Previous Article:The risk where we live.
Next Article:Every Manager's Legal Guide to Firing.
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